Fort Irwin and the National Training Center
The Home of the National Training Center
Fort Irwin is a U.S. Army base nearly the size of Rhode Island, located in the Mojave Desert 36 miles northeast of Barstow, California. Fort Irwin's major tenant is the National Training Center, or NTC, U.S. troops, from all the services spend a twenty-one day rotation before they deploy overseas. Military personnel from the United States allies, including NATO military regularly train at the NTC.
The NTC at Fort Irwin is the only place in the continental United States where military service members are able to train at full operational capacity, using all systems they will later use in combat. NTC training include traditional classroom study, virtual training in digital cyberspace and rigorous personal physical fitness training programs.
The NTC's 1,000 square miles of desert is large enough to accommodate virtually unlimited maneuverability and its airspace is restricted to military aircraft. The remote, isolated location ensures an uncluttered electromagnetic spectrum, so that troops can train unfettered in both data collection and communications jamming.
The History of Fort Irwin
The Fort Irwin area is rich with history dating back almost 15,000 years, when Indians of the Lake Mojave Period were believed to live in the area. Indian settlements and pioneer explorations in the area were first recorded when Father Francisco Barces, a Spaniard, traveled the Mojave Indian Trail in 1796. During his travels, he noted several small bands of Indians and is believed to have been the first European to make contact with the Indians of this area.
Jedediah Smith is thought to have been the first American to explore the area in 1826. A fur trapper, Smith was soon followed by other pioneers traveling the Old Spanish Trail between Santa Fe and Los Angeles. Bitter Springs, on the eastern edge of Fort Irwin, was a favorite stop over site.
In 1844, Capt. John C. Fremont, accompanied by Kit Carson, was the first member of the US Army to visit the Fort Irwin area. Capt. Fremont established a camp near Bitter Springs that served travelers on the Old Spanish Trail, and later the Mormon Trail, linking Salt Lake City to California. This camp was later to become an important supply center for pioneers during California's settlement and gold rush.
The California Gold Rush brought prosperous trade and unexpected trouble to the area. As California grew, and more travelers used the trails to enter the territory, raids and horse stealing became a problem.
In the 1880's the area experienced an economic boom with the discovery of borax at Death Valley. From the late 1800's to the early 1900's, the area began to grow tremendously as mining operations of all types flourished. Soon railroads, workers, and businesses led to the establishment of the nearby town of Barstow.
In 1940, President Franklin Roosevelt established the Mojave Anti-Aircraft Range, a military reservation of approximately 1000 square miles in the area of the present Fort Irwin. In 1942, the Mojave Anti-Aircraft Range was renamed Camp Irwin, in honor of Maj. Gen. G George LeRoy Irwin, commander of the 57th Field Artillery Brigade during World War I. Two years later, Camp Irwin was deactivated and placed on surplus status.
Camp Irwin reopened its gates in 1951 as the Armored Combat Training Area and served as a training center for combat units during the Korean War. Regimental tank companies of the 43d Infantry Division from Camp Pickett, Virginia were the first to train at the new facility.
The post was designated a permanent installation on 1 August 1961 and renamed Fort Irwin. During the Vietnam War buildup, many units, primarily artillery and engineer, trained and deployed from Fort Irwin.
In January 1971, the post was deactivated again and placed in maintenance status under the control of Fort MacArthur (Los Angeles), California. The California National Guard assumed full responsibility for the post in 1972. From
1972 until late 1980, Fort Irwin was used primarily as a training area by the National Guard and reserve components.
On August 9, 1979, the Department of the Army announced that Fort Irwin had been selected as the site for the National Training Center. It’s isolated location made Fort Irwin an ideal choice for the site for the National Training Center. The National Training Center was officially activated October 16, 1980 and Fort Irwin returned to active status on July 1, 1981.
The National Training Center - An Enduring Facility
On 9 August 1979, the Department of the Army announced that Fort Irwin had been selected as the site for the National Training Center. With over 1,000 square miles for maneuver and ranges, an uncluttered electromagnetic spectrum, airspace restricted to military use, and its isolation from densely populated areas, Fort Irwin was an ideal site for this facility. The National Training Center was officially activated 16 October 1980, and Fort Irwin returned to active status on 1 July 1981.
Since its activation, the National Training Center has witnessed many firsts. The first unit's to train against the Opposing Force (OPFOR) at the NTC were from among others the 3rd Battalion 67th Armor 2nd Armored Division from Fort Hood Texas operation named TASK FORCE IRWIN III.
Ft Irwin and the 1st CAV tested and implemented the M.I.L.E.S., Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System. Infantry and armor units first augmented the Opposing Force in 1984 as a detachment of the 7th infantry Division, Fort Ord CA.
June 1985 saw the first use of M1 Abrams tanks and later in the fall of 1985 saw the M2 Bradley fighting vehicles on the National Training Center battlefield. The first armored cavalry squadron rotation occurred in November 1984.
Units from the 101st Airborne Division participated in the first light force rotation in March 1985. The 197th Infantry Brigade participated in the first extended rotation with brigade operations in June 1985.
The first combined Light/Mechanized Infantry rotation took place in February 1990; the 7th Infantry Division (Light) from Fort Ord and the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) from Fort Stewart, Georgia participated. The first MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) mission was conducted at the National Training Center Pioneer Training Facility in December 1993.
The NTC and Fort Irwin are enduring facilities. Today The NTC is premier training facility in the continental United States with over 50,000 rotational U.S. and foreign-national service members training annually in it's classrooms, ranges, virtual environments and airspace.